Photo, p. 340
Skyline of lower Manhattan, February 5, 1965,
from the Empire State Building
before the World Trade Center was built
A BLOODY MONDRIAN IN THE BODY
An overview of Fifth Avenue:
An artery. A spine.
the nerve center,
fueled my steps
as I marched among
cutting through the night,
through my youth,
I was taking notes.
Photo, p. 75
Hasidic men with traditional fur felt hats
at Crown Heights gathering.
THEN IT BECAME A SZECHUAN CAFÉ
There’s a line of Hasidic men with fur-felt hats
with no date at the bottom of the photo;
they’ve remained in the same garb
for centuries, the same unbending
beliefs and the mystery encased
in the Torah – the mystery
of the mystery in the mystery.
They could argue among themselves
and God, hats in place and payos growing.
I might as well be Christian, Muslim,
Buddhist, an atheist among them,
an infidel who gobbles Gefilte fish,
lox, knaidlach, potato kugel and challah.
I’d follow them into that cafeteria
on East Broadway. I’d follow them
into Friedman’s on Canal and bite
into blitzes at another table. I’d eat
kasha varnishkes with eggs and listen
to them argue forever
from across the divide.
Photo p. 118
Finger cymbals on Fifth Avenue
By Hare Krishna Aug 2, 1969
They might show up on your street,
swaying in a trance beyond the grip of self.
They catch you on any corner
and serenade and I too would
like to be enclosed in a song:
a place without all the asking
and reaching. I might shave
my head, tap a drum or shake
a cymbal; let the breeze run up my robe.
Let years roll on as we orbit,
never thinking of fame, mental institutions,
the cower of my mother. Just
the encasement, the breathing.
Photo, p. 237
Claes Oldenburg digging a coffin-
sized “Hole” measured to exact specification,
then closing it up, in Central Park,
October 1, 1967, behind the Metropolitan
Museum near the Egyptian obelisk.
He measures it in a suit and tie
then seals it. I see a man
standing in the hole and Claes
with a ruler. He buries space
in a casket: perhaps a cluster
of memories, perhaps time itself.
In Venice, CA he created a pair
of binoculars, blown-up
at least two stories. I run across
his misplaced sockets and electric plugs;
shake my brain like a castanet.
Remember when my son was chided
by a guard for skating in the Cubist
section of the museum.
Top: Allen Ginsberg in front of Judson
Memorial Church, March 29, 1964.
Bottom: Gregory Corso in a marathon
Reading for Andrei Voznesensky at
The Village Theatre, May 18, 1967
AND WE RETURNED TO OUR ESPRESSOS
Allen looking as if he wants
something from me, to arrive
at a similar conclusion.
He is impatient. “Aren’t I right,”
he seems to say but I don’t budge.
I am sold on my convictions.
“First thought, best thought.”
And there is Gregory reading
into the microphone at the
Village Theatre focusing on
what’s in front of him, thickening
each word with a luscious Brooklyn
inflection and when I met him
at Café Trieste in San Francisco
he invited me to smoke a joint.
After the third inhale he asked
if I thought Allen was
a better poet than he.
I replied you’re my favorite.
He repeated do you think Allen is better?
I answered: “Is an elm tree better
than a meadow? Is a deer
better than a buffalo?”
Gregory said, “Don’t get cute.”
And then: “It’s not right
that I am poor.”